Didiza: Govt settled nearly 1500 land claims

Minister Thoko Didiza unveiled research findings on the evaluation of South Africa’s land restitution programme, shedding light on its multifaceted impacts. The study underscores not only the economic empowerment of beneficiaries but also the critical role of land restitution in healing intergenerational trauma and fostering social cohesion

by Tiisetso Manoko

 20th February 2024

in News

Reading Time: 5 mins read


Didiza: Govt settled nearly 1500 land claims

From left to right: Director general Mooketsa Ramasodi, minister Thoko Didiza, government officials and the research team during the media briefing. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

In trying to address the land reform agenda, the government said they have settled close to 1 500 land claims across the country in the last four years. This was mainly influenced by the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development intervention of fast-tracking the land claims.

Minister Thoko Didiza made the revelations during a presentation of the research findings on the evaluation of the land restitution programme to members of the media in Pretoria yesterday.

Successful land claims

Didiza said 94% of the old order claims from 1995-2023 have been successfully settled by the government to the tune of R25 billion, which was spent on the purchase and transfer of 3.9 million hectares.

“An additional R22.5 billion has been spent on financial compensation for those beneficiaries who elected for financial compensation.

“Since the inception of the land restitution programme, a total of 83 067 land claims have been settled,” she said.

Minister Thoko Didiza said the government had been hard at work in ensuring land claims cases were resolved. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Didiza said the research that started in 2018 in partnership with the Southern African Labour and Development Research Unit at the University of Cape Town and the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation, gave the government a better perspective on how to better deal with land restitution cases.

“The study also helped us to understand the underlying factors of challenges faced by the land restitution projects or beneficiaries. One of the areas highlighted is the deep-rooted trauma of land dispossession victims and the subsequent erratic behaviour of some beneficiaries.

“The study shows that healing from trauma will require a new dialogue and conceived avenues for victims of forced removals to air their grievances,” she said.

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Psychological damage done

Didiza said families of forced removal victims were fragmented for decades, and conflicts that arose at post-settlement claims were a function of a lack of social cohesion and trust created during a lengthy period of disintegration.

“From these study findings, we can draw some policy insights. Firstly, the study findings are enlightening us to understand that land restitution is not only about financial and economic justice but also psychological and social restoration – a lesson we should bear in mind when we evaluate the success or failures of land restitution projects.

“Secondly, over and above, the post-settlement support and skill training, which we are already providing to beneficiaries as the government, there is an additional need to formulate community integration programmes,” she said.

According to Didiza, the research showed that land dispossession not only constrained the economic prosperity of black people but also broke families, alienated communities, and entrenched a deep-rooted trauma and impoverishment for generations to come.

“More devastatingly, it compromises the psychological well-being and hope of dispossessed persons as well as their respective descendants.

“Essentially, land dispossession indirectly diminishes the cognitive capacities and decision-making abilities of the dispossessed over the long term,” she said.

Study highlights benefits of land restitution

The main findings of the study presented by Didiza were that the economic power of the restitution beneficiaries increased by 16%, measured in per capita per month, relative to the control sample. In some cases, this is as high as 36%, of those large land claims.

The study further stated that regarding psychological well-being, the settlement of the restitution claims significantly reduces the risk of depression by up to 0.15 standard deviation score. This implies that the level of trauma diminishes by 15% rate once the restitution claim is settled.

“About the cognitive capacity, the performance on working memory tasks increases by a range of 0.7 to 0.75 standard deviations for the beneficiaries. Again, these results indicate that land restitution can reverse the mental damages caused by the apartheid regime on people and families.

“When it comes to social well-being, the study results show that the ability to perform cultural activities and spiritually connect with ancestors is one of the key benefits of the restitution programme,” the report stated.

READ NEXT: ‘Fix land reform funding and foster partnerships’

More people needed

Meanwhile, a farmer from Thabazimbi in Limpopo, Steve Sikwane, whose family also benefitted from the land restitution, said the government needs to fast-track other land claims that are still pending.

“The are a lot of cases that are still pending, especially those that include the claims that have been taken to courts. So much land have been left without being used because of the cases that are still pending; government needs to do better.

“Importantly, government needs to invest in employing more people in offices of land reform. There are thousands of cases that are yet to be addressed but there is no manpower to deal with them,” he said.